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Buckministerfullerene: The Third Crystalline Form Of The Carbon Atom
Jul 1, 1998

To be awarded with a Nobel Prize in science is one of the most honorable present for the scientist in the world, New forms of the element carbon-called fullerens was first discovered in september 1985 by Robert F. Curl, Harold W. Kroto, Richard E. Smalley. In this discovery; the atoms are arranged in closed shells (See Nature, 318,162(1985) for the original announcement of this discovery). The experimental part of the discovery had been carried out with two other project students, J. R. Heath and S.C. Obrien. Subsequently, 1996's nobel prize in chemistry was given to those scientists as mentioned above because of that pertinant discovery.

The chemistry of fullerene has grown considerably in importance within last ten years. The discovery was very fruitfull, since then that the number of carbon atoms can vary, and for this reason numerous new carbon structures have become known. Formerly, six crystalline forms of the element carbon were known, namely two kinds of graphite, two kinds of diamond, chaoit and carbon(IV). The latter two were discovered in 1968 and 1972. Graphite is soft, black and stable, common form of carbon. Diamonds may once have been a woman's best friend, but chemists know they are only lumps of graphite in disguise. Both are in different properties, in diamond, each carbon atom is bound to four other carbon atoms in a regular repetitive pattern. In graphite, the carbon atoms are located at the corners of regular and fused hexagons arranged in a parallel layers. Those two forms are not soluble in organic solvent such as toluene, benzene but fullerene.

How C60 is formed like a European football shape?

Fullerenes formation can be summarized by a short experimental procedure; when vaporized carbon condenses in an atmosphere of inert gas such as helium. The gaseous carbon is obtained by directing an intense pulse of laser light at a carbon surface. The released carbon atoms are mixed with a stream of helium gas and combine to form clusters of some few up to hundred of atoms. The gas is then let into a vacuum chamber where it expands. It is then cooled to some degrees above absolute zero. The carbon clusters can then be analyzed with mass spectrometry2.4. Although explanation is easy, to meet the experimental part, conditions and to carry it out is not that straightforward. People have been making football and rugby ball, however, it never came up to their mind that those shapes could represent a stable molecule structure. Now, question in this respect is that the fullerene could be available in other part of the universe, since the reaction conditions do take place on the sun surface.

Why new form of carbon had been called buckministerfullerene?

Curl, Kroto and Smalley performed this experiment together as mentioned earlier with two graduate students J.R. Heath and S.C O' Brien during a period of eleven days in 1985. By fine-tuning the experiment they were able in particular to produce clusters with 60 carbon atoms, C60 gives the most remarkable peak on the mass spectrum. It was found high stability in C60 which suggested a molecular structure of great symmetry. The pattern of European football has exactly this structure, as does the geodetic dome designed the American architect R. Buckminister Fuller for 1967 Montreal World Exhibition. The researchers named the newly discovered structure "buckministerfullerene" after him. The shape could be defined as perfect symmetry the most beautiful molecule, the greatest ball, in fact, it was the most beautiful reflection of the Creator who had already created the universe.

The discovery of the unique structure of the C60 was published first in the Journal "Nature" and had a mixed reception- both criticism and enthusiastic acceptance. Continuing their work 1985-1990 obtained further evidence that the proposed structure ought to be correct, the research program particularly at Sussex University in England has covered several interdisciplinary areas. One area focused on the generation and spectroscopic characterization of new molecules, in particular, unstable species and reaction intermediates which contained labile multiple bonds, which led to carbon phosphorus double and triple bonds.

Why was this discovery so important for condensed matter?

As is mentioned above, numerous new carbon structures have become known by this discovery. Graphite and diamond (the other two well characterized forms of carbon) are known since time immemorial, now at the end of the 20th century a third form has been discovered. Furthermore, it has been under our noses all the time as amazingly the molecule forms in a soothing flame. The idea is that what kind of interesting applications can be developed if buckyballs are put together to produce new materials, or if different elements are put into the buckyballs. Besides lots of compounds made from buckyball could be easily identified. The way was, thus, open for studying chemical properties of C60 and other carbon clusters such as C70,C76,C78, and C84. New substances were produced from these compounds, with new and unexpected properties. An entirely new branch of chemistry developed with consequences in such diverse areas as astrochemistry, superconductivity material chemistry/ Physics.. (see several selected publications in the references)

During last six years since the fullerenes became available to scientist, more than a thousand new compounds have been synthesized. Their chemical, optical, electrical, mechanical or biological properties have been also tested. The production of tullerene is still expensive, which limits their use. If fullerene can be produced with a cheaper procedure then we might use it via industrial processes in our daily life. It is still early to see final application of this discovery, but there is few countries take it further to find whether it could be used as a drug, lubricant, and computer communication.

What Muslim scientists might do in order to discover something or do something in science vertically which will bring the competition with western scientists? Although the science had been developed in different respect of sciences by Muslims, now Muslims have got to pay some more effort for those gifts. We know that there are numberless substances have been staying out there ever since they had been created.With this consequence, a Muslim scientist has to be mentioned, Dr Ala'a K. Abdul-Sada10 who had involved in spectral analysis and characterization of this discovery. He is the first one who discovered this new form is soluble in different organic solvent that present a key factor in the new field of chemistry. Also the first sign in the discovery of this molecule is entirely depend on the solubility. He is a member of faculty and runs the mass spectrometry at the University of Sussex. According to him, 'There is nothing wrong with Muslim scientist, but unfortunately badly effected by the lack of resources. The capability of Muslim scientists are well enough, if they are provided with equipment, and other scientific requirement'. He reported more than eight international patents which is purely petroleum application processes and being used industrial scale. We wish this level of research will be carried out in different area by Muslim scientists.


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